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Displaying items by tag: Seven Seals

1 And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

 

The opening of the sixth seal ends in chapter 6 of Revelation. The question raised at the end, of "who is able to stand?" is answered in chapter 7. Chapter 7 also brings the reader to the time of the seventh seal and is an interesting bridge between the sixth and seventh seals. We will study chapter 7, starting with study #46. In today's study, let's continue with the opening of the last seal, on chapter 8, verse 1.

*** Silence ***: Silence is a direct translation from the Greek word sigē. There are a number of possible different interpretations to what this silence actually could be. There could be something true in many of them. But before we look at the possibilities, we must keep in mind that the seventh seal comes after the Second Coming of Jesus (which happens at the end of the sixth seal), and certainly after the sealing of God’s people (Revelation chapter 7).

The Greek word for Heaven used in this verse is ouranō, which can mean: the atmospheric sky, the starry Heaven, or the spiritual Heaven. We must consider that most of the verses using this word, refer to the spiritual Heaven. Regardless of the exact meaning, the action itself of opening the seal happens in Heaven, but its effects could be expected to be felt on Earth. Just as the horsemen were sent out from Heaven to complete their mission here on Earth, the silence of the seventh seal could be viewed in the same manner. The silence that started in Heaven could spread all the way down to our planet.

Amos 8 help us understand one aspect of the situation in the seventh seal. In his vision, he saw a basket of summer fruit, symbolizing the ripeness of God's people. It was time for the harvest. In other words, people were ready for God. We see a parallel to this in Revelation 14:17-20. Jesus explained the parable where He used this analogy of His people being harvested at the end of times (Matthew 13:37-40): “He that sows the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.” In the case of Amos, he was primarily prophesying about the captivity of the Israelites. But the language used and imagery revealed by God are the same used for the end times. In Amos 8:4-14, we see a similar situation of what we saw in the first 4 seals, but from the perspective of those who rejected the message. There was the spreading of the word, it's rejection, famine, and ultimate death. Amos 8:3 says that there would be so many dead bodies, that the songs in the temple would turn to wailings; and the bodies would be cast off in silence.

Another passage of the Bible that sheds some light on what this silence could be is found in Isaiah 47, where it reveals the prophecy about the destruction of ancient Babylon. Isaiah 47:3-5 tells us that Babylon would sit silently in the darkness after her shame had been revealed. She would no longer be called "the lady of kingdoms".

Based on the texts in Amos 8 and Isaiah 47, and in the context of Revelation 8:1 and the seven seals, silence will follow the Second Coming of Jesus. At that time, the armies of the enemies of God will be revealed, defeated and put to death (Revelation 19:17-21). These verses tell us about what will happen to Satan’s allies (the political powers representing the false religious systems), they are cast in the Lake of Fire right after the return of Christ: “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that worked miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.” This text also tells us that the rest of the people, the unfaithful people, will be killed by the sword that comes out of Jesus, which is His truth and His glory (Revelation 1:16;  2 Thessalonians 1:8-10; Hebrews 4:12). They will remain dead until the time they are resurrected again, after the saints have spent 1000 years in Heaven (Revelation 20:5). The full execution of God’s judgement starts at Christ’s return, but ends after the 1000-year period.

Silence could be the contrasting point to the Second Coming, which is described as not only being a very visible event, but also a very loud one, with earthquakes, signs involving the sun moon and stars (sixth seal), and elements melting with fervent heat (2 Peter 3:10-14). The seventh seal would function like a resting period for the sky/Earth. At that time, all eyes will be awaiting God's judgement. In Zephaniah 1:7, we read God commanding that the people await quietly in the presence of the Lord, because His Day is near. In Zachariah 2:13 and Habakkuk 2:20, we see, once again, God telling the people to be silent before the Lord.

There are other views to the meaning of the silence in the seventh seal. Some scholars propose that there will be silence in Heaven because Jesus and all His angels will leave Heaven to come to Earth during the Second Coming (Matthew 25:31). Others suggest that it refers to the period of desolation the Earth will go through during the 1000 years Satan and his angels will be bound (Revelation 20:1-3). Some propose that the silence has to do with the prayers of the saints (Revelation 8:3-4) since the execution of His judgment is the answer to their loud cry in the 5th seal. Others believe that the silence is an allusion to the silence at the beginning of creation, as implied in Genesis 1:2. As we saw in the beginning of the sixth seal, the Earth had been going through the reverse process of Creation. Under this view, the process reverted all the way to a similar point of the beginning of creation.

***About half an hour ***: This period was not revealed as an exact period of time, or a defined number of days. It is “about half an hour”. Symbolically, it means a short period of time. Prophetically, taking 1 day = 1 year rule (Ezekiel 4:6-7; Numbers 14:34; Leviticus 25:8; Luke 13:32), this period is about 1 literal week. For more examples about the 1 day = 1 prophetic year, please read study #20. The Bible mentions some interesting events that lasted 1 literal week. Here are just a few examples: creation (Genesis 1 to Genesis 2:3), the period Noah waited inside the Arc before the rain came on those who were lost (Genesis 7:4), the period Jacob had to wait after marrying Leah in order to marry Rachel (Genesis 29:27-28), the time the Israelites had to wait before taking down the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6:1-5 ), and the amount of time needed for the consecration of the priests (Leviticus 8:33). Many, if not most of these are examples of short waiting periods. Either way, symbolically or prophetically, the period of silence will be a short period, when compared to the eternal life that the saved is about to experience.

*** Overview ***: At the time of the seventh seal, Jesus will have already come, the signs on the sky and the shaking of the Earth will be over. The Earth will be silent, awaiting for God to begin His judgment on the wicked, as the answer to the prayers of the saved (Revelation 6:9-11). There will be silence before the Judge, who left Heaven to rescue His people and cast His wrath on His enemies. The silence before the new creation reflects back on the silence before the first creation. The important thing, however, is not the exact amount of days or hours the silence will last, as the word “about” suggests. The point of the message in the seventh seal is that this will be a short period of time. Eternal life with God is about to start!

 

Summary of the Seven Seals

 

*** 1st Seal - Gospel being spread throughout the world

*** 2nd Seal - Accepting the Gospel may bring about persecution, because the Word of God prevents His true followers from blending in with the people following false teachings.

*** 3rd Seal - Rejecting the Gospel brings about spiritual famine. But even then, God has promised to keep the Holy Spirit and His salvation available for anyone who seeks Him.

*** 4th Seal - A warning is sent out for people to repent and return to the path that leads to life. The opposite direction leads to death.

*** 5th Seal - Those who served and suffered for Christ need to be avenged in the name of the blood Jesus shed in His death. Their martyrdom is a cry for God to deliver His justice on the wicked.

*** 6th Seal - Many signs in the sky and on the Earth announce the imminent coming of Christ. The Earth is going through the reverse process of Creation. The sealing of the faithful people is then concluded. The wicked mourn and cannot stand the glory of God. The Second Coming of Christ happens. He comes in all His glory, on the day of His wrath.

*** 7th Seal - Everyone is silent, awaiting God's judgment in favor of those who chose Him. The wages of sin will be made known and the wicked will be sentenced, in answer to the question raised in the 5th Seal.

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12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casts its unripe figs, when it is shaken by a mighty wind.

14 And the heavens departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the generals , and the mighty men, and every slave, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;

16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

17 For the great day of his wrath has come; and who shall be able to stand?

 

PART 2 - Revelation 6:15-17

 

*** People hiding ***: Verse 15 in this chapter of Revelation describes who actually will want to run away and hide from the presence of the Lord. Basically, the verse mentions people in leadership positions in the world, people with no rights whatsoever, and everything in between. The wrath of the Lamb will fall on anyone who rejects the Messiah, regardless of their social position. The anguish of those people will be feeling will be so great, that they will wish for the rocks to fall on them (see also Hosea 10:8; Luke 23:30). In his description of The Day of the Lord, Isaiah 2:19-21 describes this exact scenario, of people trying to hide themselves in the clefts if the rocks because of "the glory of his majesty, when he arises to shake mightily the earth". We see in Revelation 6:16 that after hiding in the caves and the rocks, people will try to do the impossible. They will try to hide from the face of God. This is the exact opposite thing that Moses wished to do when he was receiving the 10 Commandments from God, on Mount Sinai. He wanted to see God's face. And God answered: “'You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.' And the Lord said, 'Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.'" (Exodus 33:20-23). Note that God was the one who hid Moses in the cleft of the rock. Moses did not attempt to hide himself, by his own efforts. God was in charge of the protection. And because He is a merciful God, He did not show Moses the full strength of His Glory. Otherwise, Moses would have been consumed.

*** Wrath of the Lamb ***: throughout the Bible, we see the wrath of God mentioned several times, both in the Old and New Testaments. In this passage of Revelation, we read that the wicked will want to hide from wrath of the Lamb. If we think about it in human terms, it will be impossible to understand divine wrath, and we will be very confused, trying to compare it with unstable feelings and irrational actions. We must look at what the Bible says about it, and set aside our preconception of what human emotions we may associate with the word 'wrath'.

The first question we must ask the Bible, is if the wrath of the Lamb and the wrath of God are the same thing. The answer comes in Revelation 19:15, where it says that Christ "Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God". The source of wrath seems to be the same for both Father and Son.

The book of Revelation tells us that the wrath of God will start being poured on the wicked with the plagues of the seven bowls (Revelation 16), and will have its final strike when those whose names were not found in the book of life are thrown in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). Revelation 14:9-10 says that whoever worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark, will drink from the wrath of God. Symbolically, the wrath of God seems to be contained in a cup or bowl (revelation 14:10; Revelation 15:7; Revelation 16:1; Revelation 16:19; Romans 9:22-23).

The wrath of God is part of God's character, just as His grace, and mercy are. Romans 1:18 tells us: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness". The wrath of God consumes those who do not walk in His truth, or as Ephesians 5:5-7 calls them, "the sons of disobedience". But those of us who have "been justified by [Jesus'] blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." (Romans 5:8-9).

Throughout the Old Testament, we see clear manifestations of the wrath of God. This side of God’s character was made known from the beginning of the world: “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17). Perhaps the simplest description of His wrath is found in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. The moment Adam and Even sinned, they experienced separation from God, and suffering started immediately. They tried to cover themselves with makeshift clothing, and “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord” (Genesis 3:8). Blood was then shed in order to make them more lasting garments, and they were driven out of the Garden.

God instituted the sacrificial ritual, where He would send fire from Heaven and consume the animal (1 Chronicles 21:26; 2 Chronicles 7:1; 1 Kings 18:38). The Bible says that “God is a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24). He also sent fire from Heaven that consumed people (Leviticus 10:1-2; 2 Kings 1:10,12), and entire cities (Genesis 19:24). In the case of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-7), they had introduced strange, unauthorized fire into their censers, and offered it to God, in direct disobedience to God’s commands. God’s wrath consumed them right where they stood, and their bodies were carried outside the Tabernacle and outside the camp. In the New Testament, we also see a similar event, described in Acts 5:1-11. Although Ananias and Sapphire were not consumed by fire when they lied to the Holy Spirit, they dropped dead where they stood, and their bodies were also carried outside.

Those who do not accept the sacrifice of Jesus, and receive the mark of the beast, will drink the full strength, undiluted version of the wrath of God in the presence of the Lamb (Revelation 14:9-10). When the Lamb reveals His wrath, the wicked will experience separation from God. Their decision to present themselves before God without the coverings given by the Savior, will cause them to pay for their sin with their own wages. Christ has made provisions to pay for the sins of every single person in this World, but only those who wish to have their debt paid by Jesus will be saved from destruction.

Jesus’ sacrifice did not start with the torture He went through in the hands of the Roman soldiers. His suffering started in the Gethsemane. His distress was so great, that Jesus started to sweat blood (Luke 22:44). For two times, He prayed to the Father to pass from Him the cup of His wrath, if possible (Matthew 26:39,42). But His Father had given Him this cup to drink, and Jesus had all the willingness and intention to obey His Father. When Peter tried to free Jesus from the Romans, “Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up your sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11). Jesus was taken out of the city, where He offered His life as a sacrifice (John 19:16-17). Jesus not only died our death for us, but He also drank the cup of God’s wrath in our place.

*** Who is able to stand? ***: If Christ is coming, and is about to reveal all His Glory, and if no sinful person has lived after experiencing His wrath, the question of "who is able to stand" God's wrath and survive, is actually a very good one. We see this question asked in the Old Testament: "Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him. The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him." (Nahum 1:6-7). Those who can endure His refiner's fire (Malechi 3:2) are the ones who are like the pure gold. The type of Gold bought from Christ, as we read in the a letter to the last church, the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:18). The gold will be made purer, but all impurities will be burned away. And just like the faithful young men in Babylon, who refused to worship a man made statue (Daniel 3:15-18), the faithful remnant will be able to withstand the furnace of God's full glory, and will be saved from His wrath. Revelation 7 is the detailed answer to this question.

***Overview ***: Jesus experienced separation from God the Father because He was carrying the sins of the world in His shoulders. Even though, from Jesus' perspective, it felt like God had abandoned Him (Matthew 27:46), God was there, revealing His Glory and the full measure of His wrath. There was no other way to save humanity. Jesus had to pay the full price for us, because Jesus and His Father "so loved the world" (John 3:16). The wrath of God in its full strength is like the brightest light that is turned on in a dark room: darkness is completely eliminated. Sin simply cannot exist when God shines His glory at it. There is no way that we can hide ourselves from God's face. Only God has the power to calibrate and focus the strength of his wrath. If He is not the One hiding us from it, we cannot hide ourselves. The beautiful thing about God's consuming fire is that it is the side of His character that executes His justice. It purifies and avenges the overcomer. Those who fear God and, like Jesus, seek to do the will of the Father, will be rewarded with the gift of Eternal Life. And because His wrath is everlasting, sin and affliction will never again rise up (Nahum 1:9). When we trust and obey God, we have no reason to be afraid, and we will be able to stand tall and look directly at the face of the Lamb, on the day of His wrath. And that will be a glorious day indeed!

12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casts its unripe figs, when it is shaken by a mighty wind.

14 And the heavens departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the generals , and the mighty men, and every slave, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;

16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

17 For the great day of his wrath has come; and who shall be able to stand?

 

PART 1 - Revelation 6:12-14

 

*** Background ***: we find both in the Old and New Testaments, texts that talk about the exact events described in the opening of the sixth seal, in chapter 6 of Revelation. In all the other Bible texts, the events described have a prophetic nature, but are describing actual events, not symbolic ones. They all describe the events during the Second Coming of Christ.

Revelation 6:12-17

Isaiah 13:10,13

Isaiah 2:12-21

Matthew 24:29-30

Luke 21:25-27

Earthquake

The Earth will be shaken from its place

The Earth trembles

 

 

Black sun

The sun will be dark

 

Sun is darkened

Signs in the sun

Moon as blood

 

 

Moon will not give its light

Signs in the moon

Falling stars

Stars will not flash their light

 

Stars will fall from heaven

Signs in the stars

Heaven opens as scroll

The heavens will tremble

 

The powers of the heavens will be shaken

The powers of heaven will be shaken

Islands and mountains moved from their places

 

 

 

The sea and the waves roaring

People hiding in dens and rocks of the caves from the wrath of the Lamb

 

Men will go into caves of the rocks, and holes of the ground, the clefts of the cliffs, before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty

The tribes of the Earth will mourn

Upon the Earth, distress of nations, men’s failing from fear

The day of the wrath has come

The day of His burning anger

The Day of the Lord

They will see the Son of man coming in the clouds

And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

Who is able to stand?

 

 

 

 

 

After we compare these texts, we can see that the events associated with the opening of the sixth seal have a literal meaning. In the fifth seal, the souls under the altar were asking how long they had to wait until their blood was avenged. The sixth seal brings a description of the events that will lead to the day when justice will take place. The Second Coming of Jesus is often described in the Old Testament as the Day of the Lord (Zephaniah 1:14-18; Joel 2:31). Historically, the things described in the sixth seal may have started somewhere in the middle ages, right after the fifth seal. But, at the same time, these references may describe the events surrounding the immediate coming of the Lord, some time in the future.

Historicists have identified some of these events as having been fulfilled around the 18th and 19th centuries. Bible students of the time, who believed that prophecy had already been fulfilled, were then part of what became known as the Second Great Awakening, which was a great revival among Protestants. They witnessed the birth of several Bible societies. Missionaries started to travel to different parts of the world, going out to preach the Gospel.

Weather or not the signs described in the opening of the sixth seal have been fulfilled already, they represent markers for the chosen people, so they can know the time of the Day of the Lord is near. The Seventh Plague (Revelation 16:17-21) describe similar events, but those seem to be more specific to the very end time, immediately before the Second Coming. It is possible that the signs of the sun, moon, stars, the earthquake and the shaking of the heavens have happened in a lesser degree, and that they will all happen again, in a more intense way on the last day.

*** Earthquake ***: Earthquakes are often associated with the coming of the Lord in the Old testament (Ezekiel 38:19-20; Joel 2:10; Amos 8:8; Haggai 2:6). There is another earthquake mentioned in Revelation 16:18, which fragments the end-time Babylon. Some Bible commentators believe the shaking in the beginning of the sixth seal happens much earlier than the one in chapter 16. Historicists have identified the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 as being the possible fulfillment of this prophecy. This earthquake reached an 8.5-9.0 on the magnitude scale, and led to fires and a tsunami. The death toll may have reached 100,000 people, making this earthquake one of the deadliest in history.

*** The sun, the moon, and the stars ***: with all three, we have a pattern that emphasizes the literal nature of this passage. Each of the texts starts with the literal (sun, moon, and stars), and ends with the symbol (sackcloth, blood, and shaken fig tree). The literal and the symbol are connected with the word “as”, or “like”, depending on the translation. We use this same pattern today, all the time. If someone says: “I slept like a log last night”, we understand clearly that ‘log’ is a symbol for how deeply the person slept. The person is the literal element in the sentence, and not a symbol for anything. We know that because of the word connecting the literal element to the symbol: ‘like’. In this section of Revelation, John is describing a literal condition in the sky, and he is comparing it to symbols in order to strengthen the understanding of what he is describing.

The sun darkened, and became black as sackcloth, and the moon became as blood: The darkening of the sun was described in the Old Testament (Joel 2:31; Joel 3:15; Isaiah 50:3; Isaiah 13:10,13). Historicists have dated this event as possibly being fulfilled in May 19, 1780, when an unusual darkening of the day was reported in the New England states and parts of Canada, and lasted about a day and a half.

The stars fell down as a fig tree casts its unripe figs: Isaiah 34:4 has a similar description of the falling stars: “And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falls off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.” Jesus also said a similar statement in Matthew 24:29. Historicists believe that this was fulfilled in the great meteor shower on November 13, 1833, where a meteor shower lasted for about 9 hours. It was estimated that during that time, over 240,000 were seen.

*** The sky was rolled up as a scroll ***: Once again we have a literal element (the sky), being compared to the symbol (scroll rolled up). The image of the sky being rolled up as a scroll is also taken from Isaiah 34:4. The prophet was describing God’s wrath. As we have mentioned before, the signs involving the \ may occur from time to time throughout history, but they have also been described in the Bible as the immediate events preceding the coming of the Lord on the last days. Let’s for a moment consider the concept of the scroll. In the Greek manuscript, the word used to qualify the scroll is apochórizó, which means: separate, part asunder, split apart. Some translations use the word ‘departed’, ‘receded', or 'split apart'. During the last days, the sun, moon and stars will be shaken out of the sky or darkened. The splitting of the sky could mean that a different dimension or a more complete understanding of the situation will be revealed to us. God’s supernatural domain over the laws of physics, which goes beyond our current comprehension, will be unveiled. The events John describes in verses 12-14 are not a type of cyclical phenomenon that can be described by human science. The split in the sky will happen because the finger of God will put it there. Jesus, talking about his Second Coming, taught His followers the parable of the fig tree. He finished the parable saying: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35).

*** Islands and mountains moved ***: Haggai 2:6-7 mentions a great shaking before the coming of the “desire of all nations”: “For thus says the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts.” Jeremiah 4:24 also talks about an earthquake that moved mountains: “I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved to and fro.” This shaking seems more severe than the first one mentioned in Revelation 6:12. The earthquake in Revelation 6:14 is able to move entire islands and mountains out of their place. This one is more in line with the final earthquake mentioned in Revelation 16:18. This event is still to be fulfilled.

*** Overview ***: The descriptions in these Revelation and Old Testament texts, give us the impression that the planet will be going through convulsions and changes, as if in a backward process of creation. In Genesis, we read about the Creation, and the process of going from a planet that was empty and shapeless, to one with atmosphere, light, sun, moon and stars, vegetation, and animal life. The Biblical descriptions of the Day of the Lord seem to describe this exact sequence, but in reverse. This passage for us today is not determining if the prophetic elements have already been fulfilled, or if they will happen more closely to the Second coming of Christ. The point here is that the Coming of the Lord will bring about the purification from sin, not only to the people, but also to the planet.

9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:

10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, do you not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little while, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

 

*** Background ***: The first four seals are different than the last three. The first four have horses and horsemen, and the living beings were involved in the announcement of the events that were to take place on Earth. The last 3 seals don’t have horsemen. John seems to be observing the events as soon as Christ opens each seal.

*** Souls under the altar ***: John started to describe what he saw immediately after Christ opened the fifth seal. He saw an altar. But what altar was it? The Old Testament holds the answer to this question. The Tabernacle had 2 altars. The first one was outside, in the courtyard, where the animals were sacrificed. The other one was located inside the tent, which was the altar of incense. When a burnt offering was offered in the outside altar, some of the blood was to be put on the horns of the altar of incense inside the tent, and the rest of the blood was to be poured out under the altar of burnt offerings outside (Leviticus 4:7,18,25,30-34). Based on these verses, we can understand that the souls John saw, who were crying under the altar of sacrifice. They had been sacrificed because of the faith they had in Jesus, and for what they stood for: the truth. Their choice to participate directly and actively in the spreading of the Gospel led to their martyrdom. There's a bridge linking the openings of the first and second seals to the opening of the fifth seal. In the Earthly Tabernacle, the people and the priests were involved in the activities taking place in the courtyard, but only the priests were allowed to work inside the tent. The altar of burnt offerings points to the sacrifice which happened at the cross, here on Earth. We can understand that the souls crying under the altar died under the protection of the cross. They had been laid to rest in the hope of Christ’s salvation, but they were still here on Earth, since they are pictured as being in the courtyard, still crying out for justice. Paul talked about this type of sacrifice, when he wrote about how he was ready to be offered up (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

*** How long? ***: The souls under the altar are pleading with God, and asking Him a very important question: how long until He avenges their death? The word ‘avenge’ was translated from the Greek ekdikeō, which means to dispense justice; to defend, avenge, vindicate. This term has a legal connotation. We see this word being used in Luke 18:3, when the widow asks the judge to avenge her from her adversaries. Some versions translated “avenge me” as “grant me justice” or “give me legal protection”. The martyrs under the altar, in Revelation 6:10, are crying out for God’s justice. They want to know when He will dispense His judgement against those who had wronged them. The question “how long” is a recurring one throughout the Bible. Often, the people of God find themselves asking the Lord about the time they have to wait for their oppression to end. This question was asked under many different circumstances: when they were under physical and mental stress (Psalms 13:1-2; Psalm 79:1-10; Psalm 89:46; Psalm 94:3-4); when a time of extreme spiritual distress had been revealed (Daniel 8:13; Daniel 12:6-7); and when political conflicts with other nations impacted their safety (Habakkuk 1:1-4). In all these examples, however, we see that they never doubted God’s power to deliver them from their oppressing situation. But because they trusted in His power, they were asking God to avenge them.

*** Those who dwell on the Earth ***: The expression “those who dwell on the Earth” stands as a contrast to the image of those who are under the altar. The souls under the altar were those who stood for the truth of God, in other words, who are considered as being citizens of Heaven (those who dwell in Heaven - Revelation 13:6). The souls under the altar are already considered as citizens of Heaven, even before living there. Their faith in Jesus and their complete surrender to Him made them citizens. Because they are not in Heaven yet, they are crying out for justice. The Earth dwellers were those who rejected that truth, and were responsible for the persecution of the believers. Revelation 6:10 once again gives emphasis to the themes brought by the first and second horsemen: the separation between those who accept the Word of God, and those who reject His message. The people who accept the message are frequently under persecution and suffer opposition from those who reject the Gospel.

*** White robes ***: The trust God’s faithful people have in their Savior is invigorated right after the souls plead for justice. John describes, in verse 11, what happened next. They received white robes. As we saw when studying the Seven Churches, white robes were promised to the ones who overcome (Revelation 3:4-5). They received the outfits they will one day wear before the throne of God after Christ’s return (Revelation 7:9,13-14). Their blood was poured out under the altar, which means that they died in the hope of the cleansing blood of Jesus. Their salvation was guaranteed. At that point, justice was no longer a matter of ‘if’, but really a matter of ‘when’.

*** Rest until when? ***: The answer to the “how long” question brings the idea of time, but not in the way humans would typically expect. God’s time is different than our perception of it. The text says the martyrs need to wait “a little while”. They must wait until the other faithful people (their fellow servants and brethren that should be killed as they were) were fulfilled. The word fulfilled here is translated from the Greek plēroō, which means to make full, complete, fill to individual capacity. Some translations add the word 'number', to indicate that a specific number of souls had to be reached. But the word 'number' is not present in the Greek manuscripts. This means that we must consider another interpretation to this passage, one that has nothing to do with how many people still have to become martyrs. Many examples in the Bible supply the basis for this interpretation. God is usually interested in quality, not in quantity. One example of this is when Gideon was recruiting soldiers. His army was only made complete when he was able to decrease it from thousands to just 300 (Judges 7:1-7). The point was that the chosen men were ready to listen and obey, and not attribute victory to their own efforts (Judges 7:2). If we are looking closely at what Revelation 6:11 is saying, we can see that the future martyrs had to be made complete, referring to their condition of “servant and brethren”, as the verse says. The text is not talking about the number of martyrs, but about the martyrs themselves. The souls under the altar had to wait until the character of the other martyrs had been completely worked on, and achieved their full potential in God’s eyes.

*** Symbolic and prophetic application ***: There are multiple layers of symbolism in these three verses. The text makes it clear that the souls under the altar are those who died in Christ, for believing in God’s truth. These are real people who are really dead. But the symbology comes to play here, because it is their sacrifice that continues to speak loud and testify of the truth of God. This is not a text about disembodied saints, undergoing prolonged suffering, crying out from under a piece of furniture. We can see a similar symbology in Genesis 4:10, when God tells Cain “the voice of your brother’s blood cries unto me from the ground.” Blood under the ground has no voice, but the crime that had been committed was still resonating very loudly in God’s ears. Historically, this period seems to include the same time described in the answer Daniel received in Daniel 12, starting at some point during the Dark Ages. But just as it was with the first four, the 5th seal represents a continuum of time in the life of the overcomer. The time of the 5th seal seems to start when the overcomer completely surrenders himself to Jesus, and ends at the end of the “how long” period. In other words, it ends when justice is brought to the Earth with the Second Coming of Christ.

*** Overview ***: When Jesus opens the 5th seal, the character of God and the character of the overcomer are revealed. God is the one “holy and true” (verse 10), who is powerful enough to bring justice and judge those who dwell on Earth. The overcomers are those who gave their lives unconditionally to Christ, to the point of death. The innocent blood they shed speaks loudly still, and asks how long they have to wait until the Second Coming, and the answer is: until the character of all overcomers is made complete and known. They were told to rest. The Greek word for rest (anapauó) is the same one used in a promise Jesus made in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Victory is guaranteed. God wants to save every single person who wants to be saved, and He is giving them time to work on their characters, and bring their burdens to Jesus as well. With every opening of each seal, the overcomer finds himself surrounded by the never-ending and ever-intensifying grace of God, despite the chaotic state of the earth and its dwellers. The message of hope is true and sure, just as the character of God. And that is why we can rest from our worries. The justice of God will come in its due time, and He will avenge the blood of His servants (Revelation 19:2).

7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, Come and see.

8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the living creatures of the earth.

(Version: King James 2000)

 

*** The fourth living creature ***: Very likely, the living creature in the fourth seal is the one who looks like an eagle. In Deuteronomy 28:48-51, we read, as part of the covenant curses, that God would send a strange nation from afar, that would be swift like an eagle. This nation would take everything Israel had. Devastation would come, they would have thirst, famine, and nothing would be left. Unlike what we saw in the third seal, where the wine and the oil would be spared, in the covenant curse sign in Deuteronomy 28:51, not even the wine and the oil would remain. Complete destruction was certain.

*** The color pale ***: The Greek word used for ‘pale’ is chlōros, which means green. It was used to describe vegetation, but also used to describe the yellow-green color of a person who was sick, or even the color of a dead person. The previous three horses had a bold and vibrant color. But this one is different. It has the indefinite, hard-to-describe color of disease and death.

*** The horseman had a name ***: Of the four, this is the only rider that had his name revealed to us. His name was Death. Hades is actually following behind. We saw in study #10 that Hades is the Greek word hadēs, meaning ‘grave’. It is sometimes translated as Hell. But based on the teachings of the Bible, Hades is the place that holds the dead, and so we can understand that ‘grave’ is the appropriate translation. The Bible tells us that Jesus descended to Hades when He died (Acts 2:29-33), but that He did not stay dead. He resurrected to life, and now He holds the keys to Death and Hades (Revelation 1:18). In other words, Revelation 6:8 is saying that Death was riding on a deathly looking horse, and that they were leaving behind a trail of graves. This image portrays the idea of the eagle described in Deuteronomy, which would overcome the people of God, leaving behind a land of desolation.

*** The fourth part of the Earth ***: The first four seals are four horsemen who go out to the world with a mission to bring people back to God. These horsemen received authority from God to execute their mission. They had control over the Earth in order to complete their assignment. The symbology of the dividing of the Earth in four parts is seen in Revelation 7:1, where four angels are holding the four winds of the Earth. These four angels have a global control of the planet, more precisely of the events that are not to be unleashed yet. The idea of such control goes even further, and the expression ‘four winds’ referring to all corners of the world or of Heaven is present throughout the Old Testament (Jeremiah 49:36; Zechariah 2:6; Zechariah 6:5; Ezekiel 17:21; Ezekiel 37:9; Daniel 7:2; Daniel 8:8; Daniel 11:4). Jesus, talking about His Second Coming said: “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:31; also see Mark 13:27). The fourth of the Earth is the target of the judgments brought by the fourth horseman. And the fourth of the Earth refers to the people of God who went through the spiritual famine (third seal), and are now (fourth seal) on the verge of becoming spiritually dead.

*** Sword, hunger, death, and living creatures of the earth ***: This is a clear reference to the covenant curses we saw in Deuteronomy 28, summarized in Ezekiel 14:21 as war, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts. As we saw in study #37, the covenant curses were directed at the Israelites when they rejected God’s commandments. God was the one in control of the curses. He used these plagues to discipline His people, more specifically those who had been unfaithful to His Word, and bring them back to Him. One interesting thing about this passage, is that it mentions one aspect of the previous 2 horsemen: the sword of the second horseman, and hunger brought by the third horseman. The order in which these four elements are stated in the verse imply an intensification of the problem, and it serves as a warning. The sword will divide people, and those who refuse to hear the Word will suffer spiritual hunger, and will eventually die if they continue on the path of rejection. Whatever is left after death is consumed by the wild beasts of the Earth.

*** Symbolic and prophetic application ***: As we saw in the study of the Seven Churches, false teachings started to come in the church, and people started to replace the pure teachings of the Bible with tradition. We saw this period of major division with the church in Thyatira, which prophetically represented the church in the Middle Ages (study #19#20, and #21), and lead to a dead church, as portrayed by the church in Sardis (study #22 and #23). But as with the previous 3 seals, the events brought forth by this horse and its rider are not limited to this period. The activities of all horsemen are ongoing, to the end.

*** Overview ***: The warning brought forth by the fourth horseman can be frightening. The idea of sword, famine, death and vultures is scary. But that is exactly why God is giving His people this warning ahead of time. The purpose of any warning is prevention. God is here stating the natural consequences of breaking the teachings of His Word. When a parent tells their children: “don’t play with fire, or you could get burned”, they are not willing that the children will disobey their command. Its not the intention of the parent to burn their children either. The point is exactly to keep the children safe, and away from danger. If the children decide not to hear the parent, and end up burning themselves, they will suffer the consequences of their disobedience. They will have pain, suffering, they could even die. That is why God is warning His people. He does not wish for anyone to suffer, or die. But if people insist on disobeying Him, they could end up with serious injuries, or worse, spiritually dead. All the horsemen so far were sent from Heaven to work with God’s children. The fourth horseman is no different. Jesus is the fourth rider carrying this important message from God, a message of death and consequent grave. But, more importantly, He is reminding us, though the language used in the text, of who He said holds the key to Death and Hades: Jesus Himself (Revelation 1:18). This means there is hope. If Jesus is in control, we can rest assured that those who repent and return to the path of the one who overcomes, will not have to face the wild beasts of eternal death. Jesus has the power to throw Death and Hades in the lake of fire, so they have a definite end (Revelation 20:14). Jesus on the other hand, will reign forever. Salvation is in Christ alone, and if we hold firmly on to His Word, we have nothing to fear.

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5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on it had a pair of balances in his hand.

6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see you hurt not the oil and the wine.

 

*** The color Black ***: The color black shows up again in Revelation 6:12, where we read: “[...] the sun became black as sackcloth of hair [...]”. Black relates to a period of darkness. Several texts in the New Testament refer to the condition of living in darkness, as the time when a person has not been exposed to the message of God (Matthew 4:16; Luke 1:79; John 1:5; John 3:19; Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:13). It’s a period of spiritual famine.

*** The third living creature ***: Likely, this was the creature having the face like a man, since the order in which the creatures calling out the horses appear seem to match the order in which the beings in Revelation 4:7 are mentioned. The human aspect of this being seems to emphasize the spiritual nature of the calling. To help us understand how the humanity and spirituality are connected, let’s look in the book of Daniel, and read about the transformation of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:28-37). When he attributed to himself all the glory for what he had accomplished, he went from being the king of Babylon (the symbol fot Babylon was a lion with wings), to becoming an animal who grazed like an ox. And his hair became like eagle feathers (Daniel 4:33). Once he recognized and praised the everlasting God, his humanity returned to him (Daniel 4:34-36). We can find in this account the same elements (lion, oxen, man, and eagle) that we see in the living beings of Revelation. It is interesting to note that Nebuchadnezzar had a before and after moment of his humanity. Initially without recognizing God, and later, when he was transformed, after he had a deep spiritual experience. The king of Babylon had answered to the call for repentance.

*** The rider had a pair of balances in his hand ***: the expression ‘pair of balances’ used here was translated from the Greek zugos, which means not only a weighing device, but also a yoke that was put on a pair of oxen, to make them work as one unit. In the Old Testament, the word scale (or balance) was used to represent famine. Eating bread by weight meant that food was scarce and was being rationed (Leviticus 26:26). Because of Israel’s disobedience, God disciplined them by cutting the supply of bread and water, and providing them just the minimum necessary - an amount that was to be measured (Ezekiel 4:16).

*** The shouting out of the price ***: Someone who was in the midst of the living beings shouted out the price of the food being rationed. It is not clear who is talking. Since the voice comes from near the beings, it is possible that it was the Father speaking, because the voice had the authority to determine the price of the wheat and the barley. Not only that, it also had the power to order that nothing happen to the oil and the wine.

*** “A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny” ***: The word ‘penny’ is actually the word denarius in the Greek manuscripts. The denarius was a Roman coin. One denarius equaled how much money a worker would make in one day. Back then, grain was one of the main basic necessity crops in Palestine. Wheat was a considered the main staple food, and barley was for the poor. One measure of wheat was enough to feed one person only. Three measures of barley could feed more people, but it was an inferior grain. In other words, the voice is saying that the situation is so serious, that it would take the entire day’s wage just to buy food. There would be no money left for anything else.

*** “Hurt not the oil and the wine” ***: While the price of the grain is severely inflated, there is no pricing on the oil or the wine. Consumption of those two things are not limited. The Old Testament mentions oil and wine as common necessities of daily living (Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 11:14; Deuteronomy 28:51;  2 Chronicles 32:28; Hosea 2:8,22; Joel 2:19). Olive trees and vines are able to tolerate drought more easily than grain, so in an actual drought, grains would be the first to suffer. The famine portrayed in the third seal is partial, since not all items in their diet were restricted.

*** Symbolic and prophetic application ***: Continuing the symbolic line of thought presented so far with the previous 2 horses and riders, we must also understand the spiritual message the third horseman is carrying. The first horse symbolizes the spread of the Gospel. The second horse symbolizes what happens when people accept or reject the message of the Gospel. And so, the famine portrayed with the going forth of the third horse must also relate to a spiritual famine, where access to the Word of God is limited. It likely a consequence of the rejection of the message. In Amos 8:10-13, we read what God is telling the prophet: “Behold, the days come, says the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst.” God is talking about a spiritual famine; a famine “of hearing the words of the LORD”. The Word of God is compared to grain (Matthew 13:3-30; Luke 8:11); to the Bread of Life (Matthew 4:4); and to Jesus himself (John 6:35-58;  1 Corinthians 10:16; John 1:1,14,29).

In the Bible, the Israelite leaders had to be anointed with oil, as a sign that God had selected them for the job (Leviticus 8:12;  1 Samuel 10:1). Oil, then, can be understood as a symbol for the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:34-43; 1 John 2:20-28). Wine can represent salvation through the blood of Jesus, shed on behalf of His children (Matthew 26:27-29; Mark 14:23-25; Luke 22:20). John 15:1-11 says that Jesus is the true vine. Salvation comes through Him.

The 3rd seal marks a parallel with the church of Pergamum, where false doctrines started to enter the church, diluting the message of the Gospel. Division in the church over which beliefs to follow is an evidence of a great spiritual war. The more people move away from the original message, the more serious the spiritual drought and consequent famine. But not all hope is lost. To the overcomer in Pergamum, Jesus promised that he would give him to eat of the hidden mana. The true followers of the Lord, who remain faithful to Him, will one day receive Christ Himself, and Will never hunger for the Word again.

*** Overview ***: The black horse and rider come out of heaven with the power to control the resources available on Earth, with His scale. But salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit were to be unaffected by the spiritual drought, because those activities are independent of human choice. Those are divine operations. Accepting or rejecting the Bread of Life is, on the other hand, a human prerogative. By rejecting Him, people will bring about a miserable condition of spiritual drought and famine. With this understanding, we can see that the rider on this black Horse is Jesus. With His scales He is showing the world the consequences of rejecting His message, but at the same time, He guarantees that His promise of the Holy Spirit and of Eternal Life continue to be unaltered and available to anyone who believes.

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3  And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, Come and see.

4  And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.

 

*** The color red ***: Before we talk about the second living creature, we must first understand the significance of the color red (scarlet). The greek word is purrhos, which means “fire-colored red”. In the Old Testament, red is associated with bloodshed (2 Kings 3:22-23; Nahum 2:3); and with sin (Isaiah 1:18). But an interesting reference, is Numbers 19:2, where God commanded the Israelites to bring a “red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came a yoke”. They were to bring it to the priest, so he could offer it as sacrifice to God. And so, red was also associated with sacrifice. In the New Testament, the color red is associated with Satan (the red dragon, Revelation 12:3); the beast (Revelation 17:3); a prostitute dressed in scarlet “having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication”, and “ the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus (Revelation 17:4,6). So, based on both Testaments, the color red represents bloodshed, sacrifice, and persecution due to the presence of sin in the world.

*** The second living creature ***: Based on the meaning of the color red, we can imagine that the living creature calling forth the red horse and rider, was the one who looked like a calf. Calves were animals used as part of the sacrificial ritual in ancient Israel. This ritual pointed to the sacrifice Christ would one day offer for His people. Before Jesus came to the Earth as a human being, God’s children were supposed to offer God a sacrifice, as they looked forward to the Messiah. After the cross, we have to look back at the sacrifice He offered for our sake. Just as in the opening of the first seal, the second living creature called forth another rider and horse, who came out from Heaven and headed to Earth.

*** The rider received the power to take peace from the Earth *** The Bible says that Jesus received His authority from the Father (Matthew 28:18; Matthew 11:27; John 3:35; John 5:22; John 13:3; John 17:2; Ephesians 1:19-23)). The Father gave the Son authority to make it clear to the people on Earth, they have a choice. Revelation 6:4 parallels the message of Matthew 10:34-36, where Jesus is instructing His disciples: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” After receiving the message of the Gospel (as portrayed by the first horseman), people are faced with a decision: accept it, or reject it. Either way, peace is removed. Those who reject the message miss out on the spiritual peace that fills the believer, even when going through hard times. Because they oppose those who do accept the message, persecution starts in various degrees and forms. Those who do accept the Gospel message, may feel spiritual peace, but are the center of opposition from the non-believers.

*** A great sword ***: The verses in Matthew 10:34-36, Ephesians 6:13,17, Hebrews 4:12, Revelation 1:16, Revelation 2:16, Apocalipse 19:21, e Apocalipse 19:15 bring us to believe that the Word of God is the great sword of Revelation. Jesus said His Word causes division, and division leads to persecution. This division makes us think about the persecution Paul suffered while preaching in Asia Minor. The persecution the early church suffered, mentioned in the letter to the Church of Smyrna (study #15 and #16), also comes to mind. The bottom line is, there are only 2 sides in this spiritual battle: those who are with God, and those who are not. The boundaries set by the Word of God are clearly demarcated, and separate the two sides. Hebrews 4:12 says: “For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

*** Question: isn't it Satan the one who causes division in the church? ***: Answer: not exactly. Satan wants the people of God to sin and break away from a true relationship with God. And he does work in that direction. But his ultimate overall strategy seems to lean more towards the seamless blending of philosophies. When people cannot distinguish spiritual truths from half truths, false doctrines become more acceptable. Revelation 18:3 says that all nations have been deceived with the lies of the end time power seeking to position itself in the place of God (represented symbolically by Babylon). This deception is global. Satan wants to blur the picture, while Christ wants to make His people and His truth stick out.

*** That they should kill one another ***: Interestingly enough, the rider with the sword is not the one doing the killing. The rider takes away the peace, but PEOPLE are killing each other. To better understand why Jesus allows His people to be persecuted (as He takes away the peace), we need to understand the role of the sword. Imagine that every person on Earth is a name on a piece of paper. God wants to identify each of His followers. He wants to make it clear to the world that those people belong to Him. The Sword is like a great ink pen, that God dips in the blood of Jesus, and uses it to underline the names of His followers. This way, the believers and God's truth become easily identifiable. In contrast, this makes God's people vulnerable to persecution. They seem to become easy targets for enemy attack. Satan then seeks to erase such names from that page. God allows this to happen because Satan can only erase them from this temporary page, which is just a draft. The enemy cannot erase the chosen people of God from the Book of Life.

Literal casualties of war exist in this battle, on both camps. Jesus warned His people that whoever follows him will suffer persecution (John 16:33), and that whoever wants to gain their eternal life, may lose their temporary Earthly one (Matthew 10:38-39). Attacks can come directly, as an attempt to eliminate the believers through persecution. Attacks may also come indirectly, when different enemy groups are fighting each other, but causing the people of God to be caught in the middle. In reality, Satan is often the driving force behind two seemingly opposing groups.

*** Symbolic and prophetic application ***: The fighting, killing, and persecution can be understood both literally and spiritually. Let's for a moment, think about how many wars were fought worldwide in the name of religion, or associated with religious beliefs. Let's also scale it down, and think about how many times discord and heated discussions occur inside the church. If the most important thing when debating an issue in the church is that one individual opinion prevail over all others at all cost, without compassion and love for one another, then, according to Christ, murder has occurred. (Matthew 5:21-26). Every time we choose not to live and behave according to the example set by Christ, we turn to the opposite behavior, and we spiritually kill one another.

The prophetic time matching the opening of the second seal, is the same as the one seen in the church of Smyrna. They experienced a severe persecution during the second and third centuries. (See study #15 and #16). But this is a pattern that we see in all times of History, and even on a personal basis. Application goes beyond a specific period of time.

*** Overview ***: Jesus is the second horsemen, as He received all power from the Father. He brings in His hand the Word of God. The decision people make after hearing His message is crucial, and determines on which side of the spiritual war they will be. The war that God is more concerned with is not the one we fight with earthly weapons, but the one with eternal consequences, where we fight with God’s truth and obedience to His commands (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). Accepting Jesus's sacrifice for us is our only protection. When people present themselves to God, under their own merit and blood, they are stating that they do not need a Savior. And so, this means they accept the price of eternal death. When we present ourselves before God, under the blood of Jesus, we come as redeemed people, whose debt of eternal death has been paid in full. Just as He promised to the overcomer in the church of Smyrna, Eternal Life is our reward when we allow Him to underline our lives with His redeeming blood.

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1  And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four living creatures saying, Come and see.

2  And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

 

*** Background ***: The Lamb is the one opening the seals. He is the only one found worthy to do it, because He paid the price to restore humanity with His own blood. As soon as Jesus opened the first seal, interesting events started to be unveiled. The first four seals are related to each other, as they all involve riders on horses. Many people are familiar with the expression “the four horsemen of the Apocalipse”.

We find similar texts in the Old Testament, talking about different colored horses (Zechariah 1:8-17, and Zechariah 6:1-8). The colors of the horses in chapter 1 of Zachariah are mentioned (red, speckled, and white), but are not emphasized. In chapter 6 of Zachariah, we see the same colors as the horses in chapter 6 of Revelation. One of the key elements that can help us understand the horses in Revelation is that, in both of Zechariah’s texts, the horses come from Heaven. The Lord sent them. And they had a mission to be completed here on Earth.

***Voice (noise) of thunder said: Come! ***: Following the opening of the first seal, John saw one of the four living beings making an announcement. He had the voice of a thunder. Revelation 4:7 tells us: “And the first living creature was like a lion, and the second living creature like a calf, and the third living creature had a face as a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.” The voice of thunder seems to go very well with the first one. It is possible that the first living creature, the one who looked like a lion, was the one making the announcement: “Come and see”. In some Greek manuscripts, such as the Textus Receptus, the text reads Erchou kai blepó. Erchou is a from the verb Erchomai, which means to come or to go. Blepó means to look, see, perceive, discern. Other manuscripts, such as the Codex Alexandrinus, only includes the word Erchou (“come”). In any case, the living being is calling to the scene a white horse and its rider (mentioned in verse 2), and inviting John to witness the scene.

*** White horse ***: There are a few things we need to consider in order to understand the results of the opening of the first seal.

Where and who?: A white horse and its rider “went forth conquering and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2). The first thing we need to look at is: where did they go to conquer? Once we have an idea of where they went, it will be easier to see what group of people they were targeting. The living being that called them was clearly in the throne room in Heaven. Revelation 6:2 gives the idea that they “went forth”. This leads us to believe that, like the texts we read in Zechariah 1 and 6, the horseman is going out from Heaven, and heading somewhere else. Throughout the book of Revelation, the main focus is to reveal Christ to the fallen humanity. From the beginning of the first vision, Christ was showing to John His plan to be reunited with His people on planet Earth. The rider and the white horse were likely headed to Earth, to conquer the people there. Since the horseman was sent from Heaven, his mission must then be to conquer people for God.

Color white: the color white in Revelation is always linked to Jesus and His followers.

Jesus is portrayed with white hair

Revelation 1:14

The overcomer receives the promise of a white stone

Revelation 2:17

The overcomer would wear a white gown

Revelation 3:4,5,18

The twenty four elders are dressed in white

Revelation 4:4

The martyrs are given white robes

Revelation 6:11

The Son of Man is seated on a white cloud

Revelation 14:14

Jesus is the rider of a white horse

Revelation 19:11

Armies following Jesus are riding white horses, and dressed in white

Revelation 19:14

God will sit on a white throne in the final judgment

Revelation 20:11

Symbolic and prophetic nature: The symbolic and prophetic nature of this horseman and white horse becomes clear after looking at the implications of where he is coming from, where he is going to, and the significance of the color of the horse. A literal approach to the scene following the opening of the first seal cannot encompass the depth of the symbolism presented. The goal of the horseman on the white horse relates to the message embedded in all of the passages that include the color white as a qualifier.

The main 3 interpretations: There are different views on how to interpret the white horse and rider. 1) Literal: a modern view is the literal interpretation. Under this view, the horse and rider would be the Parthians, who were enemies of the Romans, and were known for their use of horses, bows and arrows during wartime. The problem with this view, is that it does not carry any prophetic significance in terms of the conquering people for God. 2) The rider as the antichrist: the proponents of this way of interpretation have good arguments, such as the instances in the Bible when the arch and the bow are used as symbols of the enemies of God’s people. They defend the idea that, since the other horses bring about plagues, so does the first one. Once again, this interpretation doe not take into consideration the fact that the horseman left heaven to conquer for God. 3) Rider and horse as a symbol for the spreading of the Gospel: Christ is the one who sealed the opportunity of salvation and made it real when He died at the cross. The Pentecost, which we saw was related to Jesus taking His place on the throne with the Father, marked the beginning of the spread of the Gospel. The message of the Gospel is clearly covered in all of the instances in the book of Revelation where the color white is mentioned. The Word of God spread quickly after the Pentecost, most definitely conquering people for the Kingdom of God. This view seems to be the one that matches more closely the events that would be taking place soon after the ascension of Christ to His throne.

*** A bow ***: The horseman had a bow. It seems that he was using it as his conquering weapon. In Habakkuk 3:8-9 and Psalm 45:3-5, we see God riding a horse, with a bow in His hand. With His arrows, He pierces the hearts (Psalm 45:5) and the heads (Habakkuk 3:14) of His enemies. This way, He can give them a new heart, and new understanding if they are willing to let Him in.

*** A crown ***: the rider received a victory (stephanos) crown. That is the crown that was promised to the overcomer, and the type of crown the twenty four elders wore. The fact that the rider is already wearing the victory crown indicates that He has overcome the challenges imposed by sin. In the moment in time depicted in John’s vision (enthronement of Christ in chapter 5), only the twenty four elders and Jesus were wearing the victory crown. In Revelation 19:11-12, Jesus is the rider of the white horse, but in that scene, he is wearing a royal crown (diadem), and not a victory crown. This is because Revelation 19 is showing the time of Christ triumphant victory over his enemies. At that point, Christ will be the undisputed ruler of the world, and will wear the royal crown. 1 Corinthians 15:24-25 says: “Then comes the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he has put all enemies under his feet.

*** Conquering, and to conquer ***: The Greek word used for “conquering and to conquer” is the same word used for the one who overcomes, described in the seven letters to the Asia Minor churches (Revelation 3 and 4). It’s the verb nikaó. It means to conquer, to overcome, to be victorious, to prevail, to subdue. Now it becomes very evident that the white horse and rider represent the life journey of the one who overcomes once he accepts the call to hear the Spirit, and follow the Word of God. This process started at the Pentecost, and will continue on to the time of the end of the world. The message of the gospel spread very fast during the first century. Since then, it never really stopped conquering. Jesus said in Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”

*** Overview ***: After considering each element described in Revelation 6:1-2, we can see that the conquering going on the planet Earth is both the spreading of the Word of God and the response people have when they hear the message. If they accept it, they initiate the path of the one who overcomes. They receive a new heart, and new understanding. But who exactly is the horseman? There are two Bible verses that help us understand the answer to this question. Psalm 45:4 says that God rides in His majesty. Revelation 19:13 says that Jesus “was clothed with a robe dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.” Jesus is the living Word of God, going forth as the horseman. He is riding in the fullness of His majesty, because the blood He shed on the cross made a way for people to overcome the world, just as He did.

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Saturday, 29 October 2016 22:18

37. The Seven Seals: general view * Revelation 6

Before we dive into the details of each of the seals, we must take a look at the big picture. The events on chapter 4 and 5 of Revelation led to the high point of a fenomenal worship and enthronement service. With Christ sitting at the right side of the Father, and being recognized as worthy to open the seals, all eyes were now once again on the sealed book in Jesus' possession. As Jesus opens each of the seals, we see the description of amazing events, and not the reading of the contents of the book. It is not hard to understand that the book can only be read after all seals are broken. However, each seal is a trigger for events happening on Earth. And those are the events being described in chapter 6 and beginning of chapter 8 of Revelation. There is a gap between the 6th and 7th seals. Think of this pause as a parenthesis. This interruption is necessary in order to zoom in on some important information. Once that information is explained in chapter 7, the opening of the seals resumes in chapter 8.

In ancient Israel, a new king would usually exercise his judgment over his enemies soon after taking over the throne (1 Kings 2;  1 Kings 16:11;  2 Kings 9:14-37 to  2 Kings 10:27;  2 Kings 11:1,13-16). The fact that the opening of the seals is the first action of Christ as king, makes us think that the selas have some elements of judgment embedded in them. But unlike the judgment of the kings of Israel, the judgment component of the seals are not directed at God’s enemies, but at His people. We must then conclude that His judgments are based on love, and are intended as a call for repentance. To bring back the theme of the seven letters of Revelation, the seven seals relate to the path of the one who overcomes. When God disciplines His people, it is always with the intention of saving them, and guiding them back to Him. As Jesus said in Revelation 3:19, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Jon Paulien, a theology professor specializing in the Bible books written by the apostle John, observed how the first four seals contain the same themes of the covenant curses, found in the Pentateuch. These curses are found in Deuteronomy 28:15-68, and are rooted in Leviticus 26:21-26. Ezekiel talks about “four severe judgements” God would send upon Jerusalem because of their disobedience: war, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts (Ezekiel 14:21). Jeremiah 15:2-3 mentions 4 types of curses God would appoint over Jerusalem. The people whom He had the covenant with at the time were not willing to follow His instructions. By rejecting God’s word, people made their stand to oppose God’s protection, and to inevitably expose themselves to the consequences of their choices. As a result of Israel’s apostasy, their enemies would come and afflict them. History tells us how they were ultimately exiled to Babylon. These curses were often mentioned in the Old testament, and they always had the objective of leading the people to repentance (Jeremiah 14; Jeremiah 15; Jeremiah 21:6-9; Jeremiah 24:10; Jeremiah 29:17-18; Ezekiel 5:12-17; Ezekiel 6:11-12; Ezekiel 12-23; Ezekiel 33:27-29).

In the same way He allowed Israel to suffer the consequences of their disobedience, and experience war, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts, He also promised to deliver His servants from their enemies (Deuteronomy 32:41-43). We can see that God took it personally, and called Israel’s enemies “My adversaries […] who hate Me” (Deuteronomy 32:41). This is exactly what we see on the 5th seal. In Deuteronomy 32:43, we read: “Rejoice, O you nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.” Once again, we see that when God’s judgment is directed at His people, it has redemption purposes. When it is directed at His enemies, it is the execution of God’s justice.

Stefanovic notes that chapter 6 of Revelation also follows the format of Jesus’ sermon in the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). Once again the themes of war, famine, pestilence, and persecution are mentioned. In addition to that, we also see the parallel with the 6th seal, with the mention of heavenly signs, people who will mourn, and the Second Coming of Christ.

*** Overview ***: Just like the Seven Churches, the Seven Seals cover the prophetic period from John’s time all the way to the Second Coming. But the point of view being portrayed is different. The Seven Churches described events related to the church history. The Seven Seals have to do with the preaching and acceptance of the gospel message throughout history. It relates with the up and down path the one who overcomes is on. In the Old Testament, we see a similar description of the journey of the Israelites, and how God dealt with them during that time. God would send His judgement upon the people when they were braking the covenant God had made with them. These judgements were often described as war, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts. At a first glance, such consequences may seem a bit too harsh. But God, in His infinite love and wisdom, knew what buttons to press in order to lead His people back to Him. Bringing people to repentance was the main goal behind the covenant curses of the Old Testament. Similar judgements are also found in the New Testament, where Jesus Himself is teaching about the last days of this Earth. Because God is Love, His mission is not to condemn the ones who choose to serve Him. His desire is that no one be lost. He respects our right to choose which side we want belong to. Each choice comes with repercussions. If we choose His side, we automatically allow Him to course correct us back to the right path. If we choose not to be on His side, than we automatically expose ourselves to the certain execution of His justice, and the consequences of not choosing life. There cannot be life aside from the Life Giver.

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